Opinions

OPINION: Holtan Hills opponents distort the facts on Girdwood development plan

january, development, housing, girdwood

First, let me thank the ADN for providing me space to respond to commentary regarding Holtan Hills. Due to recent commentaries and their innuendos, I feel the need to speak out and defend myself. 

Most of you who are reading this today know me as a real estate columnist who has written about real estate for the past 40 years. When I came to Alaska in 1979, I literally knew no one. I drove up the Alaska Highway with my boyfriend, a dog and a cat, and I cried all the way to Fairbanks. I worked as a social worker, secretary to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Athletic Director, waitressed at the Traveler’s Inn and cocktailed at the Golden Nugget until one day I discovered Anchorage and real estate.

I have a Master of Fine Arts from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, and I was an award-winning young American writer. But writing is a lonely business, and I soon discovered that real estate was every bit as creative as writing a poem.  Every home, every buyer, every seller has a different story to tell, because marriage, birth, death, divorce and job change are the driving factors in one’s life (not interest rates) that propel individuals into or out of a real estate transaction. 

During my 40 years in real estate, I also became a residential developer and worked to create new neighborhoods such as Huffman Timbers and Sandhill Reserve. I learned how to be a better land developer by serving for five and a half years on the Planning and Zoning Commission, where I was elected chair. In 2019, I was awarded realtor of the year by the Anchorage Board of Realtors. I have  also been recognized by the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame. Two years ago, I had the privilege and honor to align my company, Dwell Realty, with one of the most respected companies in the world — Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. Today, I enjoy sharing what I have learned about real estate as a licensed instructor with 10 continuing education classes approved by the Real Estate Commission of Alaska.

So, more than anything else, it saddens me when I read, hear and see — in print, Facebook, or on Twitter — unsubstantiated criticism by self-interested parties who chose to distort facts and question my integrity as a real estate professional. Through ignorance, jealousy or maliciousness, such a misstatement as a “Municipality of Anchorage giveaway of 400 acres in Girdwood” has no basis in fact. The requested transfer is 60 acres. And there is no giveaway. It is a joint venture between the Heritage Land Bank and CY Investments, with a 50/50 profit share. CY Investments assumes all the risk for the construction costs of the road, water, sewer and shallow utilities, as well as the risk for absorption of the created lots.

Every objection that has been raised about Holtan Hills can be answered with facts by our team of engineers, planners, surveys, and attorneys as to why, for example, deed restrictions that run in perpetuity with the land are an archaic and obsolete way to govern a land holding, and how residential mixed density can contribute to the elimination of economic segregation that is so prevalent in our community due current zoning regulations in Title 21. The Development Agreement between CY Investments and the Municipality of Anchorage, which identifies all the financial terms and responsibilities of both parties is a legally binding document and is now a matter of public record.

In April 2006, the Crow Creek Neighborhood Land Use Plan predicted the housing crisis in Girdwood and recommended Girdwood plan for its future as a resort community by developing its own approach to providing affordable housing. One option given was to create a management body, or affiliate with an existing housing authority. Unfortunately, in 16 years, Girdwood has not taken any action on these recommendations.

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Holtan Hills will require a Conditional Use Permit and Planned Unit Development approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission. It will be reviewed and commented on by the following municipal departments: Planning, Private Development, Traffic, Watershed, Onsite Section, Street Maintenance, Anchorage Fire Department, Right-of-Way, Trails Coordinator, Addressing, and Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility, as well as Alaska’s departments of Natural Resources and Transportation. Other agencies who will be notified and will be required to comment are Chugach Electric, GCI/ACS and Enstar. In addition, landowners within 500 feet of the outer boundary of subject property or the 50 nearest parcels will be notified and encouraged to comment, as well as all Girdwood and Municipality of Anchorage residents.

I have lived and worked through two real estate recessions, and despite all the mistruths surrounding my proposal for Holtan Hills, I shall always consider it a privilege to live and work in the great state of Alaska.

Connie Yoshimura is an Anchorage-based real estate broker and developer. Her company, CY Investments, is leading the Holtan Hills development project.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Connie Yoshimura

Connie Yoshimura is owner/broker of Dwell Realty and has been involved in residential real estate in Anchorage for more than 30 years. She's the former chair of the city Planning and Zoning Commission.

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